CCTV captures shoplifters turning violent towards Southampton convenience store workers

  • ITV Meridian's Derek Johnson reports from Southampton

The owner of the Welcome store next to Southampton train station says authorities are not doing enough to protect shops like his from confrontational and aggressive shoplifters who largely go unpunished.

Richard Inglis who owns three Co-op franchise shops claims police won't investigate shoplifting offences unless there is clear CCTV, the stolen goods are worth more than £200 and he provides the criminal's full name.

Hampshire Police say shoplifting is a crime they are working hard to tackle.

Cameras in Mr Inglis' Welcome convenience store near Southampton railway station often record cases of blatant theft as well as violent and aggressive behaviour when offenders are challenged.

Mr Inglis says cases vary between petty thefts and stealing in bulk.

"On a bad day we can have up to eight incidents a day across our three stores" he said.

"Occasionally we get a day where we get a break but to give you an idea in the month of July we have had 80 recorded incidents. That's incidents that my guys have noticed.

"We probably only pick up on a third of what gets taken from the store so that gives you an idea of the scale of what we are dealing with."

  • CCTV cameras capture one of several incidents at the Co-op franchise store near Southampton train station

Police do attend at certain times but Mr Inglis says very few of the offenders are brought to book.

He added: "We have to show clear entry and exit.

"We have to show a full face shot and we have to have a value over a certain amount for it to be considered. So we can go to all that effort and it can be NFA - no further action.

"The more the police don't investigate these crimes the worse it's becoming.

"It's left staff feeling vulnerable.

"They like to think they can pick the phone up and call the police but the reality is that that's not necessarily the case. It can make them fear coming to work.

"Psychologically it's not great."

  • Richard Inglis says the incidents leave staff feeling vulnerable.

Incidents captured on one of the stores' many cameras show a man threatening to break the nose of a staff member who has asked to look in his bag, a youth spitting at a staff member and men and women punching and kicking those who are trying to stop them leaving without paying for goods.

All this as figures show an increase in shoplifting nationwide following the pandemic.

Mr Inglis said: "It's not just the police.

"They are part of a bigger organisation, whether it's the Crown Prosecution Service or the courts. No-one seems to be taking this seriously.

"We are seeing repeat offenders that come into our stores who are jailed for a week or two and as soon as they are back on the streets are doing the same thing again.

"The police could do more. The CPS needs to start investigating more crimes and the courts need to start giving punishments that are relative. Jailing them for a week and letting them back on the streets - they are not learning anything.

"They are not changing."

  • In one Incident cameras show a man threatening to break the nose of a staff member who has asked to look in his bag.

Southampton Chief Inspector Chris Douglas said: “Shoplifting and other crime associated with it is an issue that we are constantly working to tackle across Southampton – we work hard to identify those responsible in partnership with local businesses by ensuring that we capture the best evidence efficiently, which includes CCTV opportunities.

"Each report of shoplifting that we receive is assessed at the time the report is made and all lines of enquiry available to us are then pursued.

“Each report is dealt with and assessed on a case by case basis in line with our crime recording guidelines, and we do not make decisions based on the value of items stolen, although this does form a part of our risk assessment.

"We assess crimes based on balancing threat, risk and harm to the community or individual.

"As part of this initial process we also review any witnesses, CCTV opportunities and other lines of enquiry available - the length and quality of any CCTV available will also form part of this assessment.

"We’re required to balance this against the investigative opportunities available, which can in some cases unfortunately be limited with no clear CCTV.

Richard Inglis says staff are often victim to aggressive shoplifters at the Co-op franchise store next to Southampton railway station. Credit: ITV Meridian

“It remains very important for all incidents of shoplifting and associated assaults to be reported to us so that we can identify crime patterns and offenders. While a crime may be filed initially, all reports are then passed on to the local neighbourhood policing teams for review, who will then conduct follow-up enquiries and identify patterns of offending in their area.

"It’s vital that local businesses work with us by supplying any available CCTV as early as possible.

“I would like to reassure local communities and business owners that we do take reports of these types of incidents seriously, balanced against other threats and risk in our district at any given time. We will always investigate where there are viable and legitimate lines of enquiry available to us.

“We do appreciate the emotional, physical and financial impact that these types of offences can have, not only on those employed by local businesses, but the businesses themselves and also the wider community. For this reason, we will continue pursuing the small minority of people who feel that committing these crimes is acceptable, and will continue our focus on gathering evidence and bringing those responsible to justice.

“Working in partnership is absolutely vital to ensure that we understand the problems being faced and apprehend those responsible. We rely on the support and co-operation of business owners and communities to let us know what is happened.

“I urge anyone who witnesses shoplifting or related assault to please report it to us. You are our eyes and ears on the ground, as we are not able to be everywhere all at once.

“The information that you provide to us about suspicious incidents or crimes that are taking place in your area are reviewed on a daily basis by our local neighbourhood policing teams, which ultimately determines where we best allocate our resources based on the threat, harm and demand upon our services.

"It gives us the bigger picture around what is happening in the community to be able to react swiftly, and robustly, to incidents which are reported to us.”

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